Tonight, the shot guns will slide out of their cases for a once over as the upland season is upon us in just under a week. More ants need to be tied up at the vise and I could probably use a few more boxes of 2 and 3/4 inch number sixes. Tomorrow will be along day in the back country of YNP and I have to prep for that as well. The next three months are an exciting time and perhaps the finest portion of the three hundred and sixty five days I live each year. While I do love winter, nothing compares to a change of a season and Autumn’s turn is spectacular. Aspens on the north shore of Hebgen already have a slight yellowing to their leaves and the river bottom Betwix the Lakes is gorgeous – you should see it.
It’s also that time of the season where an angler’s skill level can make or break their day on the river. While luck is something we all want on our side, from time to time, actually being good at this sport will bring home the bacon. Which really means, the river can fish as good as you can. Sure there are some days when the river is just plain tough, but preparing for your trip is essential with regards to fishing Montana in the fall. You won’t get that second chance on that juicy rainbow taking dries out of a slick. Nor will that fat brown eat your streamer again after you miss-strip on the strip set. Get outside and cast that fly rod folks, it does make a difference, honestly…..it does.
Some anglers believe that the Madison is not a technical river and that one should be able to plop a Royal Wulff along the bank and catch some fish. Not true…..not one bit, especially during the next two months. After a summer full of good and bad drifts, our trout in the Golden Triangle are smart as shit. Fishy anglers who read water and know where the fly should be, before it gets there, will absolutely catch more trout this time of the year. Those that believe in the fly and the river will definitely catch more trout. There are folks out there who don’t believe the Madison holds the ghost anymore. They have some hours on the river, but not the days or weeks or even years on the river that it takes to understand how the Madison works. I’m not saying I have all the time in that it takes to fully understand the Madison, but I get it, or rather I get how it works – put in enough time and the Madison will open up the doors to some unreal fishing.
Most anglers don’t have enough patience these days. They want it now, yet they really don’t know what “it” is. Patience, my friends, is a large percentage of what makes an angler fishy in the first place. Patience is probably the single most important trait an angler can possess. Being patient shows the ability to relax and except the day for what it is – a day on the river. I know for a fact, that when I’m relaxed on the river, that I catch more trout and usually some larger trout show themselves as well. I pay more attention to everything around me when things are at peace in my head. I notice the tiny black ant that blew by and landed near the bank, the subtle change in depth of water that a nice trout will possibly slip into and eat naturals, the slight flash of refusing trout a few feet below the surface and I also forget about the time of day. Sometimes, I don’t even remember what day it is. The next time you find yourself on a piece of river or lake, try to slip into this realm. Forget about everything else and just go fishing.
All the locals I have run into lately are talking about it. The elk are thinking about it as well….so are the brown trout and the white fish.
Fall is in the air.
Yes, it’s only August 11, but in these parts, summer is rapidly approaching it’s end. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of summer like days ahead in the Rocky Mountains, but whether you like it or not, Fall is coming. There are trees and bushes starting to show some color, the days are getting shorter. I have woke to ice in the drift boat several times this past week. I have NOT heard an elk bugle just yet, but I thought I heard one yesterday morning, which reminded me of a tree stand which needs to be moved to a new location as archery season is almost three weeks away. September and October, on the Madison, offer some of greatest fishing opportunities. If you keep your options open, and are willing to fish dries, nymphs and streamers, you can have some great days on the river.
On another note
2013 has been the busiest season for Big Sky Anglers to date. As the owner/outfitter/guide, I would to give a mid-season “Thank You” to all those who trust in BSA and come fishing with us. We truly love what we do and without folks like you, we could not exist. Thanks to all of you who have come out to fish the Madison, Missouri, Yellowstone and Yellowstone National Park – you are the BEST. Bookings for 2014 are coming in already……are you fishing Montana in 2014?
Fishing Report: 08.11.2013
The Madison has been a little inconsistent, but honestly, the fishing has been pretty darn good this season with all things considered. therre are still some fishing willing to eat the nocturnal stone fly and when the moths drops from the evergreen trees, the fish are paying attention. The daytime river temps are getting a little warm, but luckily the cold over night temps are keeping the fish happy. We have yet to see a real flight of honey ants, but any day now these will emerge from the ground to recolonize. When this happens, all the big trout come up for a taste of the ants. If you are lucky enough to be on the Madison when this happens, you will never forget it. Some of the biggest trout of the year are looking up when this hatch occurs.
YNP is fishing, but some of the rivers in the northeast corner are getting low and a bit warm. Fishing these rivers early and late is the name of the game. Walking a little further than the rest of the anglers will reward you as well. Cover as much water as possible and once you start catching fish, SLOW DOWN, there are more.
First off, Happy New Year from West Yellowstone, Montana.
The past 12 months was filled with wonderful memories on and off the river. Thanks to those of you who diligently return to fish with Big Sky Anglers each season, and to those first timers who trust in our word, we continue to thrive in this competitive fly fishing world. With out the support of you – the reader, the traveling angler and our own families, BSA would not exist. So, hats off to all of you! We appreciate it more than you will ever know.
While sleeping sitting on the couch the past couple of days, I have been running through photos from the past year. I picked a few…… I hope you enjoy.
Making my way down Barnes Hole #1 this afternoon was worth the time spent. I have a few days off and then a run of trips, so I figured some R & D was not only good for me, but for the days to come as well. Walking the Madison in YNP is pretty nostalgic. Having not wet a line in this section of the river since last Fall, the ritual of relearning the river feels good. I get to fish, however I choose, and end up talking with some interesting folks. One can’t help but eavesdrop on the conversations along the banks and in the parking lot while rigging for the river. I don’t participate much in the chatter, which is full blown right now as anglers ascend on the Madison River, but there is definitely some funny shit going on out there. The Old dudes talk politics and the younger crowd discusses fly patterns and fish numbers. Some drop names like Jacklin or Brooks and then quote The Living River trying to feel fishy. Charlie is long gone, but his spirit lingers and Bob is a living legend – red suspenders, plaid shirt, black glasses and that never ending loop.
All bullshit aside, there are not huge numbers of runners in the river just yet. Yesterday’s rain and clouds, followed by today’s rain and clouds is helping things along. However, I did my best while nymphing in the sunshine in between the storms. Nymphing a big fly and something smaller off the back seems to well for me after the morning in which I usually swing flies. I fish Zonkers, sculpin patterns, stones flies, prince nymphs, pheasant tails, partridge & peacock, RAM caddis and various lightning bugs.
At one point this afternoon, BWOs emerged so I switched out to a #18 purple lightning bug behind a girdle bug. In just a few moments, I had a 21 inch brown to the hand and then three more runners hooked and off in the next twenty minutes. The BWOs quite and caddis popped just for bit. Back to the RAM Caddis and a couple more fish hooked up. This is not rocket science, it’s fishing, which can actually feel like rocket science from time to time. The runners are lake fish. So, they are not that picky. Drift the fly, near the bottom for as long as you can and set the hook. Take a step down stream and do it again. Swing out the end of your drift as this is about the only time one can actually rely on hooking a fish this way. Set on the pause of the bobber, on the hard take or if some inner voice tells you to set the hook, then do it. Fishing is instinctive, so don’t second guess – react to the moment at hand.
The Professor is in town, from Wisconsin, and is enjoying his new found retirement. His pick-up truck is littered with fly rods, waders, duck decoys, shot guns and a fine bird dog named Cody. Howard’s trip this fall will span the next 6 weeks……..that’s one heck of a retirement vacation. Yesterday, we hunted elk in the morning and fished the Madison in the evening. We had a spike bull come in to 30 yards (I was close to full draw but spikes are illegal to shoot in this district) and found some brown trout on the Madison that were active and willing.
More of the same.
The Madison River has been inconsistent as of late. Why? Who knows at this point. The river is starting to cool off and quite possibly, the fish are getting used to this. Brown trout are on the move throughout the river system, some days they are on the bite and some days they aren’t. Browns are hard to understand – they feed when they feel like it. The full moon is on it’s way out, so maybe more fish will feed during the day. At this point, one can have a banner day on the Madison and then have a tougher day the next. Yesterday, I floated my parents down the Madison River and my Mother, above, caught more fish than my Dad! While the bite was a little off, we had our best luck fishing nymphs and dead drifting streamers. The morning bite has been much better than the afternoon bite – at least for my boat. The hopper fishing this season has been less than stellar. Walking the banks of the river one will find less hoppers than the past few years. Yet, when hiking in the mountains and the benches above the Madison, there are quite a few. Will they migrate down to the banks of the river during September? Hopefully so.
Over the Labor Day weekend I joined up with Steve Hoovler, owner of Oarsman Expeditions, for an Oarsman Road Trip. We picked the fellas up in Bozeman and headed over to Paradise Valley for a float on the Yellowstone, then spent a day fishing an unnamed river in YNP and wrapped up the trip on the Madison River. Vince, below, had never cast a flyrod prior to this trip but picked up the techniques and caught some nice fish over the three days. Summer road trips are a ton of fun – three rivers in three days. Thanks Steve!